Tex­ans should de­mand to be part of NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tion

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - ANN HUDSPETH, AUSTIN

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump wants to “kick-start” the process to rene­go­ti­ate the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, which he has called the “worst deal ever.” Should Tex­ans be con­cerned? The an­swer is un­equiv­o­cally yes.

Texas con­sumers have a huge stake in NAFTA, which cur­rently low­ers the price we pay for many goods. One-third of goods im­ported from Mex­ico by the U.S. are im­ported by Texas — more than any other state.

The pres­i­dent has pro­posed new taxes on im­ports from Mex­ico — but th­ese taxes would not be paid by Mex­ico. They would be paid by Texas con­sumers. They would also ex­act a heavy price from Texas com­pa­nies and the Tex­ans who work for them.

Many of th­ese ex­ports are parts, ac­ces­sories and com­po­nents made in Texas by Texas work­ers. Th­ese are ex­ported to Mex­ico in order to be as­sem­bled and re­turned to the U.S. as part of fi­nal prod­ucts, such as au­to­mo­biles, flat-screen TVs and other con­sumer elec­tronic prod­ucts. If we im­port fewer fi­nal prod­ucts from Mex­ico, we will also re­duce sales of the parts used to make those prod­ucts and cut jobs for peo­ple who make those parts.

New U.S. im­port taxes will cer­tainly be met by new Mex­i­can im­port taxes, pro­duc­ing lost sales and lost jobs for the many other Texan com­pa­nies that cur­rently ex­port their prod­ucts to Mex­ico.

New im­port taxes could also in­crease il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion from Mex­ico along the bor­der. Dur­ing the past 10 years, in­creased eco­nomic pros­per­ity has led to a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion from Mex­ico. A tax on im­ports from Mex­ico could re­verse that trend. Even if a wall is built along the bor­der, eco­nomic hard­ship would give more Mex­i­cans rea­sons to climb it.

Ar­gu­ments used to sup­port im­port taxes should also raise grave con­cerns for Tex­ans. Al­though new busi­nesses might step in to make the prod­ucts we cur­rently im­port from Mex­ico, this would not nec­es­sar­ily cre­ate new jobs for work­ers in Texas or any­where else in the coun­try. Busi­nesses in China will be happy to step into Mex­ico’s place in­stead.

It is true that the value of U.S. im­ports from Mex­ico cur­rently ex­ceeds the value of ex­ports to Mex­ico by $60 bil­lion. But our trade deficit with Mex­ico is not the real prob­lem. Im­ports from Mex­ico are full of parts and com­po­nents made in the U.S. And we are cur­rently run­ning a $366 bil­lion trade deficit with China. If trade deficits are the prob­lem, why fo­cus on Mex­ico?

Trump sup­port­ers ar­gue that im­port taxes can be an im­por­tant ne­go­ti­at­ing tool. But they are also an ex­traor­di­nar­ily dan­ger­ous tool — es­pe­cially for Texas. The threats have al­ready pro­voked a back­lash in Mex­ico, which can re­tal­i­ate with its own threats. Mex­ico could ne­go­ti­ate new agree­ments with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping of China in­stead, or it could threaten to re­duce its co­op­er­a­tion with U.S. au­thor­i­ties on bor­der is­sues like drug trade and im­mi­gra­tion. Th­ese threats would have their great­est im­pact on Texas.

What U.S. ne­go­ti­at­ing goal will jus­tify wield­ing such a risky tool? Trump has yet to give us any clear in­di­ca­tion. Mex­ico’s pres­i­dent has an­nounced he will take 90 days to con­sult with busi­ness lead­ers in his coun­try prior to ne­go­ti­a­tions. Trump has ex­pressed im­pa­tience and a de­sire to “speed things up.”

In fact, the U.S. could pur­sue many pro­duc­tive goals in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Mex­ico — in­clud­ing in­creased co­op­er­a­tion in en­ergy, en­vi­ron­men­tal and la­bor pol­icy, to name a few. No state has a big­ger stake in any of th­ese is­sues than Texas.

It is time for our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to stop stand­ing silently by. Texas busi­nesses, work­ers, lo­cal gov­ern­ments and com­mu­nity lead­ers should all de­mand to be part of the ne­go­ti­at­ing process. Im­port taxes elim­i­nated by NAFTA must not be brought back. Pro­vi­sions in NAFTA aimed at im­prov­ing bor­der co­op­er­a­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal and la­bor pro­tec­tion need to be up­graded, not di­aled back. Op­por­tu­ni­ties for en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion need to be ad­e­quately ex­plored.

We have far too much at stake to leave ne­go­ti­a­tions to the pres­i­dent alone.

Re: Feb. 11 com­men­tary, “Herman: In search of grown-up pres­i­den­tial be­hav­ior.”

Fi­nally, Texas adult adoptees may have ac­cess to their orig­i­nal birth cer­tifi­cates if House Bill 547 and Se­nate Bill 329 are passed this ses­sion. I can­not un­der­state the health ben­e­fits — both men­tal and phys­i­cal — that I have ex­pe­ri­enced in the 20 years I have known my birth fam­i­lies. Just last year I was able to treat a pre-can­cer­ous con­di­tion I would not have looked for if I hadn’t known my birth mother and grand­mother had cancer at early ages. My life has been en­riched by adding more fam­ily mem­bers — and my re­la­tion­ship with my adop­tive fam­ily has not changed. In an age where any­one can find blood rel­a­tives with an An­ces­try.com DNA test, we need to up­date our laws to make the process fairer for all Tex­ans.

RALPH BARRERA / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Luis and Lucy Aranda from Dal­las (cen­ter) join in prayer with Pas­tors and Evan­gel­i­cals from across Texas on the south steps of the Capi­tol dur­ing a “Prayer Rally for Im­mi­grants” on Tues­day. The gath­er­ing in­cluded state law­mak­ers.

Hansen

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